Release Date: May 11, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Actor and director Stephen McKinley Henderson of Buffalo, a professor of theatre and dance at the University at Buffalo known particularly as a performer of the ouvre of the late playwright August Wilson, has been nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway revival of Wilson's 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Fences."
The production, which will run through July 11 in the Court Theatre in New York, received 10 Tony nominations, including a pair for lead players Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. The winners will be announced at the Tony Awards Ceremony on June 13 at Radio City Music Hall.
Henderson's performance as Jim Bono in "Fences" also has earned him the Actor's Equity Foundation's 2010 Richard Seff Award for the best performance in a supporting role in a Broadway or off-Broadway production.
"This is a special distinction for me, because the Seff award is from my fellow actors," Henderson says, "but coming at the same time as the Tony nomination makes this an overwhelming week for me personally and professionally.
"I am very, very grateful that I can perform in such brilliant plays, then return to UB to teach -- to share the excitement of our students as they become involved in the work of great playwrights," he says, "and I hope my chair, the dean, my colleagues, my students, know how much I have appreciated their help all these years."
The Seff award, which carries a cash prize of $1,000 and a crystal trophy, will be presented to Henderson, and to Helen Stenborg for her performance in the off-Broadway play, "Vigil," at the organization's Eastern Regional Board meeting on June 8.
Henderson, former chair of the UB Department of Theatre and Dance, has worked in many productions throughout the United States, on and off Broadway, and in television and film, but has earned special distinction for nearly two decades as a performer of Wilson's work.
Is the role of Jim Bono his favorite?
"It is now," he laughs.
Henderson was cast by Wilson himself in several plays in the playwright's "20th Century Cycle" (also called the "Pittsburgh Cycle") the 10-play series for which Wilson won two Pulitzer Prizes.
He performed on Broadway in two of them, "King Hedley II" in 2001 and in the 2003 revival of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" with Charles S. Dutton and Whoopi Goldberg, and was in the cast of the New York premiere of "Jitney" in 2000.
During that off-Broadway run, "Jitney" garnered the New York Drama Critics' Award for Best Play and Drama Desk, Obie and Audelco awards for each actor, including Henderson, as members of the outstanding ensemble of the New York season.
Henderson also has been a part of several productions of Wilson plays at Kennedy Center as well, most recently as a member of the acting company for Kenny Leon's historic Century Cycle Readings in 2008. In 1992 he played Troy in "Fences" at Buffalo's Studio Arena Theater and is currently working through productions of the Cycle at Rochester's Geva Theatre Center.
His Broadway roles also Van Helsing in "Dracula, The Musical," directed by Des McAnuff. His five off-Broadway roles include Pontius Pilate in the LAByrinth production of "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot," directed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Turnbo in "Jitney."
In Los Angeles, Henderson has won the NAACP Theatre Award for Outstanding Dramatic Performance by a Male, as well as a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award as an outstanding featured actor.
Henderson says, "I just feel very, very fortunate to have worked with this playwright for so long while he was alive and to have continued in his plays since his death. August and I worked together for six years in "Jitney," taking it from Pittsburgh in 1996 around the country and finally to London in 2002, where he won the Olivier Award for Best New Play of the London season. I loved the role and it was a very special time for both of us."
He is one of a legion of great American actors whose performances in Wilson plays have been among the finest of their careers -- Charles S. Dutton, James Earl Jones, Ruben Santiago Hudson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Lawrence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Roscoe Lee Browne, Denzel Washington, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Viola Davis (who won her first Tony for her role in "King Hedley.")
Henderson's film and television work includes "Everyday People" for HBO Films, the FOX television series "New Amsterdam" and the PBS American Playhouse productions of "A Raisin in the Sun" with Danny Glover and Esther Rolle and "Killing Floor" with Alfre Woodard.
His work has been cited in the book "African American Theater, A Critical Analysis" (Cambridge University Press) and by John Houseman in his memoirs, "Final Dress" (Simon and Schuster, 1983) and "Unfinished Business" (Applause, 1988). His work as an actor, director and educator has been documented in the book "Acting Teachers of America" and in "African American National Biography" (Oxford University Press).
Henderson is a Fox Foundation Fellow, and a Distinguished Alumnus of Purdue University College of Liberal Arts.
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